Review: Yan Jun – 这个。那个。我。 (self-released, Oct 11)

If by this point you haven’t at least heard the name Yan Jun [颜峻], the only question I have is which rock you’ve been living under—followed by a supplemental inquiry regarding the geological makeup of that rock, in the interest of further research into (and eradication of) materials that can somehow cut one off from the soaring micro-frequencies, defined spatiality, and humble quotidian beauty of the Beijing-based creative’s distinctive music. In and out of collaborative formations of various sizes (recent highlights include The Blind Match with Francisco Meirino, twice with Zhu Wenbo [朱文博], and Click Here (and There) for More Information with Sam Andreae and David Birchall) Yan has been both honing and widening his already eclectic supply of techniques and concerns, his pair of intimately domestic Amplify 2020 pieces, the voice-based subversions of Lanzhou, and the sparse improvised collage Revisiting with Kevin Corcoran all being examples. With all that said, however, it’s always of interest when an artist elects to “return to their roots,” so to speak, so reading that 这个。那个。我。(This. That. I.) was produced with only “a Mahjong tile–sized circuit board” [“一块麻将牌大小的电路板”] was exciting. The extreme modesty of the instrumentation used prevents this self-released CD from reaching the abrasive peaks of something like oh my God, and yours, but as always it is exactly that innate reticence and limitation that makes the results so compelling. I’ve previously shared some of my own stories of experimenting with circuits, and anyone else who has dismantled some broken appliance or old toy and amplified the guts will also recognize many of these sounds and textures on the lengthier bookend tracks: strangled, pinching squeals; microscopic clicks and clock ticks; electromagnetic hum. “我,” on the other hand, is a different beast, its only sonic variation created by “pulse, sweating . . . and electrical interference” [“其中的变化,部分来自脉搏和出汗,部分来自周期性的电流杂讯”] since Yan doesn’t move his hand from the board a single time. This “sandwich” contrast helps the release feel like more than just a circuit jam, even though (as mentioned) its being only that is also an important aspect of the appeal—just one of the many gleeful paradoxes that Yan’s work consistently both exemplifies and defies.